TOKYO (JPN), FIG News, October 7, 2011: Enthusiastic spectators witnessed the first of two exciting days of Women’s Qualifying events when the 43rd Artistic Gymnastics World Championships got under way today at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium (Raluca Haidu).
A total of 244 female gymnasts from 65 different countries are competing in 10 sub-divisions, aiming to qualify for the Individual All-around Final (24 participants) and the Apparatus Finals (eight each). At the same time, the competition determines which eight teams will qualify for the 2012 London Olympic Games and the Team Finals on Tuesday. Teams ranked 9-16 will secure an invitation to the test event in January, where the best four teams will also qualify for the Olympic Games.
The 6-5-4 system is used in the qualifying round, whereby each country can line up six gymnasts per apparatus, out of whom five will actually compete; the best four scores make up the team’s total. The 24 participating teams qualified from last year’s World Championships in Rotterdam.
Midway through the preliminaries, Raluca Haidu of Romania leads the Individual rankings (56.465) followed by Australia’s Lauren Mitchell (56.324) in second and Celine van Gerner (NED) in third place (55.465). In the Team competition, Romania are in the lead with a total of 227.228 points, Australia sit in second (221.846) with Canada currently third (215.328). The battle for an Olympic berth will become especially fierce tomorrow when most of the teams enter the competition.
In his opening speech, Hidenori Futagi, President of the Japan Gymnastic Association (JGA), gave a warm welcome to the spectators in the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium and greeted gymnasts, coaches and officials alike. He is especially proud and excited that the JGA is hosting these important championships in Tokyo.
On behalf of the entire international Gymnastics community, FIG President Prof Bruno Grandi (ITA) expressed his gratitude to the organisers and the volunteers. Grandi said he was honoured to be here in a country with such high gymnastic potential, a country steeped in the fundamental values which are the cornerstones of the success and reputation of our sport.
President Grandi wished all gymnasts good luck for the competitions and declared the 43rd Artistic Gymnastics World Championships open.
The pledge was taken by Steve Butcher (USA) and Yoko Takahashi (JPN) for the judges, followed by Peggy Liddick (AUS) and Hiroyuki Tomita (JPN) for the coaches and Beth Tweddle (GBR) and Kohei Uchimura (JPN) representing the athletes.
The first sub-division featured gymnasts from Mexico, Iceland, Guatemala, Egypt, Puerto Rico, Israel, the Czech Republic and Trinidad & Tobago, with only Mexico participating in the Team competition.
The rising Mexican squad, which had qualified for Tokyo in 21st position, made a strong impression overall today. First-year senior Ana Lago was especially convincing, although the experienced Elsa Garcia made a few mistakes. The team garnered a total of 206.751.
Ana Sofia Gomez of Guatemala, who first came to attention at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, made her world senior debut in Tokyo and she looked good (52.540)!
Jana Sikulova of Czech Republic was carried off the podium after she injured her foot on the Vault, but her team-mate, Beijing Olympian Kristyna Palesova, hit her routine on Uneven Bars nicely (13.166).
In Sub-division 2, Romania and Venezuela entered the Team competition, while Finland and Croatia lined up three gymnasts and Denmark and Portugal two each.
All eyes were on Romania, who are expected to compete for a medal in the Team competition despite being without the injured 2008 Olympic Floor Champion Sandra Izbasa. Coming out of retirement, the 2004 Olympic Champion Catalina Ponor showed she still has what it takes on the Beam, where she impressed with 15.000 points today.
On the Floor, her other speciality, she finished behind team-mates Diana Bulimar and Diana Chelaru and will miss the event Final. With her 14.400 points, 2010 Youth Olympian Bulimar retained the lead on the Floor until the end of the day.
With a total of 56.465, 16-year-old Raluca Haidu was the most consistent gymnast overall today, helping Romania into the lead in the Team rankings (227.228).
The highlight for Venezuela was the consistency of Jessica Lopez, who shone especially on the Uneven Bars and the Floor. Her 54.731 total should secure her a spot in the All-around Final.
Australia headlined Sub-division 3, with the team aiming for direct Olympic qualification and Lauren Mitchell a hot candidate for a medal in the All-around. But looking a bit nervy today, the 2010 World Floor Champion stepped out of bounds and fell on the Beam, although she is still sitting in second with a total of 56.324.
Her compatriot Larrissa Miller impressed on the Uneven Bars, where she is currently leading the rankings (14.300), while the team ranks second behind Romania with 221.846 points.
Also in this sub-division were gymnasts from Ireland, Turkey, Peru, Vietnam, Chinese Taipei, Kazakhstan, Indonesia and Poland.
The 2010 All-around finalist Marta Pihan-Kulesza was below her best today. With falls from the Beam and the Uneven Bars, the Polish veteran won’t make the Final this time around.
Thi Ha Thann Phan of Vietnam surprised on the Vault, where she lies third at the end of today with a total of 14.216.
Canada and Greece were the teams lining up in Sub-division 4, where they were joined by gymnasts from Austria, Jamaica, Armenia, Qatar, Hong Kong, Bulgaria and Costa Rica.
Team Canada started off a bit nervy, with falls on the Beam from Dominique Pegg and Christine Lee, but they recovered quickly with a good performance on the Floor, where Mikaela Gerber stood out (13.800). Lee was the team’s most consistent performer today, peaking on the Uneven Bars with 13.800. The team, 12th in 2010, scored a total of 215.328.
Moving like a rhythmic gymnast, Greek veteran Vasiliki Millousi impressed on the Floor and scored 14.450 on the Balance Beam.
The powerful Toni Ann Williams of Jamaica pleased her fans by nailing her double front dismount from the Beam.
The last session of the day featured the teams from the Netherlands and Uzbekistan, as well as individual gymnasts from Sweden, South Africa, the Dominican Republic, Lithuania, Argentina, Singapore and Slovakia.
With a consistent performance, 2010 World All-around finalist Celine van Gerner of the Netherlands helped her team to an overall 212.828 tonight, putting herself into third position (55.465) in the All-around. With a 14.300, she had the best result on the Beam.
The gymnasts from Uzbekistan showed great potential, though they lacked consistency as well as any great degree of difficulty.
While disappointing on the Balance Beam, Swedes Jonna Adlerteg and Ida Gustafsson impressed on the Uneven Bars, both scoring a 13.700.